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Essay Exams: Test Day


What do I do?

Here's some hints that will help you get to the end of test day.

1. When you get your exam, look over the entire thing first. Don not panic if you see a question that looks especially difficult. An answer will eventually come to you.

2. Remember that you do not have to write your answers in order. Use strategy. For example, start with the easiest question (so you can build up your confidence) or the one that's worth the most points (so you will be sure to have enough time for it). You are in control.

3. Wear a watch and budget your time. Devote more time to the more heavily weighted essays.  You don't want to leave yourself with just five minutes to answer a 50-point question.

4. Read the essay question carefully. If you're asked to analyze, don't just summarize. If you're asked to compare and contrast, be sure to do both. If you're asked for your options don't just give the facts. Reread the question often to be sure you're covering everything.

5. After you first read the question, do not immediately start writing your essay. (Huge mistake!) Before you start writing, make notes on scratch paper. Quickly write down everything you can remember about the topic. Next, think about how you should organize the information. Next, you should decide what you should cover in each paragraph and sketch a good plan.

6. Professors will not expect flawless writing in essay exams, but this is college, and students are expected to know how to write. Include an introductory paragraph with a thesis statement indicating what information your essay will cover and what "angle" you're taking on that information. It's a good idea to repeat some or all of the question in your introduction: this helps guide your essay. Also, make sure that you connect your ideas logically, and develop )your ideas as fully as you can and give lots of specific examples, details, and reasons. Remember that if your essay is unclear or vague, your professor can only assume that you don't have a firm grasp of the course material. (See the example below.)

7. If you have time, look back over your essays. Fix any grammar mistakes that you see; make sure that you have spelled any names or terms correctly. Rewrite anything that is illegible. Neatly make insertions if you have left out important information. (For example, you could write the information in the margin or in the form of a footnote.) You might even have time to rewrite the essay entirely, so that you can improve its content and appearance. Neatness counts: your professor can't give a good grade to an essay that he cannot read.

 

SAMPLE ESSAY QUESTION AND FIRST PARAGRAPH

(Prentice Hall Handbook. 11th ed.. p. 572)

Q: What were the four major political and social developments in Europe during the period of 1815-1848?

A: Although there were no major conflicts among the European powers between the Congress of Vienna and the Revolutions of 1848, important developments were taking place that would affect the future history of Europe. Four of these developments were the rise of nationalism, the conflict between the conservatives and the liberals, the conflict between the lower and middle classes, and the expansion of industry.

 

 

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